Below The Deck and Off The Menu

One of my favorite parts of cocktail culture is writing and creating the cocktail menu; that is why I am in this business and love this job. That being said, I find myself increasingly making drinks that are not on our menu.

Now there is only one person to blame for this, and that is myself. When we have a member/guest ask for a cocktail menu, I shake my head and say, “You don’t need it. Let’s talk about what you like to drink,” and I proceed to serve them something else based upon how they answer a few questions, such as, “What do you normally drink?”, “Are there any spirits you do not particularly enjoy?” From there, I can do my best to recommend something they will enjoy. I love that; it gives me a chance to shine as a bartender, and share my favorite drinks with people (it is also a chance to try out new drinks on unsuspecting guinea pigs).

Restaurants around the city, and, I imagine, around the country, have secret menus. If you know to ask for something that is not on the menu, then you are in the know, and you get something special. I guess, as bartenders, we all keep “secret cocktail menus” in the Rolodexes of our minds.

Here at Wingtip, we have one particular drink that a very select few even know about, and I am hesitant to even mention it for fear of letting the cat out of the proverbial bag–but it’s too much fun to keep a secret. It is what we call the “Tiki Special.”

I might not be card-carrying member of the Cult of Tiki, but it is, by far, my favorite style of drink. And my favorite bar in the city is the great Smuggler’s Cove, the Tiki Mecca of SF. So we present the Tiki Special in a vintage tiki mug, from a collection I have amassed from antique stores and tiki bars in the area. I keep a stash of them behind the bar, part-decoration, part-offering to the Tiki gods.

As far as the drink goes, it is tiki-inspired, but is rarely filled with the same thing twice. So if you want to hold your glass–err, mug–high and pay libation to the Tiki gods, you’ll want to remember to order the Tiki Special off the menu.

Be Sociable, Share!

Brian MacGregor

Wingtip Bar Director Brian MacGregor has tended bar in San Francisco for over nine years, learning his trade from such local legends as Jeff Hollinger, Jonny Raglin, and Thad Volger. Although he credits his cocktail crafting skills to these fine practitioners, he learned the art of hospitality at a very young age from his father, a career bartender in his childhood home of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brian has, for three years, creating award-winning drinks and building an extensive collection of rare and fine spirits at some San Francisco’s most acclaimed bars and restaurants such as Jardiniere, Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen, and Absinthe Brasserie and Bar. Currently, Brian resides in San Francisco with his wife, Carey, a bartender herself, their two cats and their greyhound, Pooka.

One comment

  • Whenever given the chance, off menu at wingtip is the only way to go. Rarely does an average working stiff like me get a chance to text the bar director, “I’m coming in hot, fire up something with bourbon…” Bam, 5 minutes later I arrive and some fancy, fantastic drink bomb awaits. Well done, Brian.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *